Morality In C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength And Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray

Morality In C.S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength And Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray

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The crucial theme present throughout C.S. Lewis' "That Hideous Strength" and Oscar Wilde's

"The picture of Dorian Gray" is morality, and how it can be influenced. The main characters in C.

S. Lewis' novel, Mark and Jane Studdock, go through very contradicting paths and join opposite in

objectives, organizations; at the same time they share similar feelings (solitude, confusion,

paranoia) and carry out immoral actions in the attempt to run away from the problems.

On the other hand, in Oscar Wilde's novel, the young, beautiful, inexperienced, naïve, Dorian

Gray; influenced by his new friend Lord Henry Wotton, forgets his moral values and lives in

constant pursuit of individual pleasure. The characters find themselves in different situations, but

prove the same statement that an unstable human mind can easily be influenced and forced into


The main characters in both of the novels, are fooled into the dangerous influences because of their own

youthfulness, naivety, and lack of experience. Dorian Gray listens to Lord Henry due to the lack of a

strong parental figure in his life. Dorian was raised by his rich uncle who left Dorian to live his life the

way he chose to, that made him vulnerable to influences. In C.S. Lewis' novel, The National Institute of

Co-ordinated Experiments (N.I.C.E.), fools Mark by offering him a new job. The high payroll convinces

Mark to join the N.I.C.E. Jane's peculiar gift (the ability to predict the future in her dreams ) makes her

wanted by the N.I.C.E. agents, they intimidate her and she becomes mentally unstable. The doubt that

Jane has regarding the choice between her friends and the N.I.C.E. puts humanity in danger. What looks

like an obvious choice proves to be difficult for Jane to handle under pressure.

Although the main characters in these novels represent the same theory, the environments in which;

Dorian, Mark and Jane act, are significantly different. The time in "That Hideous Strength" is in the

middle of the 20th century, while in "The picture of Dorian Gray" the events take place during the

Victorian Era (19th century). Another difference is in the way the influence is implied to the characters.

In the case of Mark and Jane, the N.I.C.E. intimidates and even tortures the young couple, in order to

invoke a mental crisis in them and change their moral values. Then Mark starts carrying out immoral

actions for the N.I.C.E.,such as writing propaganda material, etc.

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In Oscar Wilde's novel, Lord Henry uses a different method of persuasion, based on achieving a strong

bond between himself and Dorian. The young and beautiful Dorian believes in Lord Henry, rearranges

his lifestyle to become a follower of "New Hedonism". His individual needs for pleasure are his only

goals in life, and if anyone tries to change what Lord Henry teaches him, gets either rejected (Sybil

Vane) or even killed (Basil).

"I do not think that one person influences another, nor do I think there is any bad influence in the

world," stated Oscar Wilde when under trial. Although this statement may be true, "The picture of

Dorian Gray" shows that it is not true. In the novel, obvious manipulations such as that of Lord Henry

upon Dorian Gray and Dorian over Sybil Vane, we can see the frightening results from these influences

further on in the plot. My opinion is that Oscar Wilde uses "The picture of Dorian Gray" to criticize, in a

more subtle way, the conservative values of Victorian Era.

C.S. Lewis lived during the 20th century, a period of great turmoil, in which people questioned the

human values in an attempt to explain the horrible events happening around the world. Also, it was a

much more liberal society for literature works in comparison with the Victorian Era. Lewis uses his

novellas, especially the Space Trilogy, to remind the readers that the world develops into a society

where moral values are forgotten and that powerful organizations like the one in "That Hideous

Strength", the N.I.C.E., are present in the world and manipulate the people(terrorist organizations,

political agencies, powerful nations).

Both "That Hideous Strength" and "The picture of Dorian Gray" prove that one's moral values can be

affected and diminished from a strong influence. The influence can be powerful and involve violence

like the one in C.S. Lewis' novel or wise and persuasive like in the case of Dorian Gray.

It may also happen different periods throughout history. It is a fact, anyone that is in a mental crisis can

be influenced by other individuals in society.
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